The following interview excerpt was originally published in two parts on the Reclaiming Futures blog in June 2009, and was recently republished in its entirety on their “Stories” site.
The Reclaiming Futures program “helps young people in trouble with drugs, alcohol, and crime. Its six-step model unites juvenile courts, probation, treatment, and the community to reclaim youth.” Read more about the Reclaiming Futures program here.
The following is an excerpt of the RF interview with Estella Rebeiro, who is a senior juvenile probation officer at the Reclaiming Futures site in Bristol County, MA. The interview discusses local implementation of the Changing Lives Through Literature program. Ms. Rebeiro is also a certified schoolteacher and has served as co-facilitator of the Changing Lives through Literature Program for the local juvenile court since 2001.
What are your overall impressions of Changing Lives Through Literature (CLTL)?
It’s the most exciting and rewarding thing I do as part of my job at the court. I’m elated to even talk about it.
Our juvenile court has several alternative sanctions to detention. CLTL is the most well-received, and the kids really enjoy it — which is amazing, because these are kids who have done horribly in school, they’re often court-involved because of school-related problems, etc. Yet they do really well in the program.
The kids come up with phenomenal writing. They don’t realize they have the potential, don’t think what they have to say is important. And you see small things that show you how important it is, like when we had a group of 17-year-olds from very tough areas who wanted to come to class. I said, “You don’t have to come during vacation,” yet they wanted to come. And we had a college professor take on a gang kid as a mentee, and the kid’s now on the Governor’s Council and is planning to go to college.
The program’s contagious. I mentioned it to someone, and then suddenly the director of a local theatre called, wanting to get involved. She gave us complimentary tickets to take all the kids to a stage performance of To Kill a Mockingbird, which we’d read in our group. These were kids with no resources, who had never been to a theatre – and here they could see a play and relate to it because they’d read the book. To see a performance for the first time through their eyes, that was amazing. These are kids who have never read a book before, telling me now they enjoyed reading, and wanted to do more of it.
To read more of this interview, please visit the Reclaiming Futures site: http://www.reclaimingfutures.org/stories_rebeiro